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Weekly Scoop (December 9-15) - Beat the Winter Blues ❄ Plus lots to do this week!

Blue About Winter


By Stuart Cowles
Founder, CEO of Climbmax Climbing and Smoky Mountain Adventure Center

Photo by Climbmax Climbing

Feeling blue about the approaching winter? This is not uncommon and something I hear a lot this time of year. The leaves have mostly fallen, temperatures are dropping fast and the days are much shorter. Soon more flakes of snow will be flying, and winter will set in firmly. For the warm weather lovers this can seem to be a sad time. But not to fear, there’s plenty of sunshine to experience and with some great outdoor activities to get your heart rate up, you’ll warm up inside and out.

Let’s go!

One of the best ways to enjoy a winter day is to seek out some crystal-clear blue skies while hiking in the local mountains surrounding our region. During most winter days the air temperatures are cool and crisp with a very low humidity. This is a rare treat since our mountains are often shrouded in a blue haze created by trapped particles in the humid air, lending to the name Blue Ridge Mountains. Perched upon the right peak and with the absence of this haze, one can see for miles and miles. This is truly a winter treat and certainly nothing to be blue about! With most of the leaves off the trees, it won't be hard to find some stunning vistas! One of my favorite winter hikes is to drive up to Carver Gap as Highway 261 out of Bakersville intersects the Tennessee state line. There is a big parking area near the gated entrance to Roan Mountain State Park, and the Appalachian Trail crosses right there. Hiking either way on the A.T. will most certainly provide a true winter experience.

Photo by Romantic Asheville

The winter blues aren’t all bad; try skiing down a blue diamond slope at one of our local ski resorts. Yes, there are cheap flights from Asheville to New York and Colorado, but one does not have to travel nearly that far to enjoy some good skiing! With at least six ski resorts within a 2-hour drive of Asheville, why hop on a plane? Instead just hop on one of the many slopes that remain snow-covered from December to late February; and skiing is something that anyone can enjoy. Trails are rated from green, to blue, to black to denote the difficulty of the terrain, so if blue is not your color, try a more mellow green slope!  My favorite blue slope nearby is at Beech Mountain near Boone. Try the Ox Trail off the back-side; it’s long, less crowded and beautiful.

If zooming downhill is not your speed, then perhaps a little cross-country skiing may take the winter blues away. Take a short drive up one of the access roads that crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since the Parkway, at higher elevations, is mostly closed in the winter, the roadway is a perfect place for fresh snow to linger and can offer good terrain to kick, glide and slide on. Although occasionally possible right in town, going up to a higher elevation is a good way to make your own tracks and is a fun way to get some great exercise while enjoying the expansive blue skies. Since cross-country skiing requires a good amount of natural snow, the higher one goes, the better the chance for some skiing possibilities. When the fluffy stuff flies, drive up to Moses Cone Park near Banner Elk. The trails up there are gentle and perfect for some rolling skiing.

Photo by Beech Mountain Resort

A rare treat for the most adventurous is to seek out some ice to climb. Ice climbing is not only possible in the high mountains of our region, but also a very, very cool thing to do (pardon the pun). Although rare, sometimes the ice can form more water-logged, allowing it to have less oxygen and thus giving it a rich blue color. This “blue ice” is the holy grail for the avid climber, and something that I seek  out all winter long.

Even if the ice is white and crisp, ice climbing is super fun and certainly exciting. Seeking out a professional for advanced climbing facilitation is always highly recommended, as there are many dangers involved in this more extreme sport. Hiring a reputable guide service to help facilitate and provide some equipment is a good idea and a perfect way to get a great introduction into this amazing sport. Check out Climbmax Mountain Guides or Fox Mountain Guides for some good information.

So, it's easy to see that winters around Southern Appalachia can offer a new spectrum of activities for anyone to enjoy. From the solitude of hiking in the mountains, to the extreme chill of ice climbing, or the adrenaline rush of zooming downhill on a snow-covered slope, there is more than enough to do to keep those winter blues away.

About Stuart Cowles:

Cowles is an avid outdoor enthusiast and nationally certified climbing instructor. He has been tromping around the Southern Appalachian mountains since the early 1980’s and has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail and climbed big mountains all over the world for the past many decades. Cowles is also the owner and founder of Climbmax Climbing and Mountain Guides and the Smoky Mountain Adventure Center. When he is not working or taking people outdoors on adventures, there is a pretty good chance you may find him sneaking around the snow-covered mountains looking for that perfect pillar of blue ice to climb.

Below you will find one locally curated Scoop chosen for each day this week — but make sure to check out all the Scoops this week on our Dig Local Scoop Calendar.

Monday, December 9

Sippin' Santa Polar Luau
at The Montford Rooftop Bar
Get $3 off the Sippin' Santa Cocktail, a special luau food menu, and a ukulele holiday set by Megan Escalante Broussard and David Gate at 8pm. Open for all of our industry friends until 12 midnight!
More details.
More to do Monday
Tuesday, December 10
Electrosoul Sessions
at The One Stop
ElectroSoul/Trap/Dance with strongmagnumopus brings a fresh and curated take on popular favorites spanning many different danceable genres. Nu-disco, re-edits and modern takes on old, familiar hits are just a few of the things you’ll hear!
More details.
More to do Tuesday

Wednesday, December 11

Beginner's Sushi Class
at Ginger's Revenge
Learn how to make perfect sushi rice, how to make all of your favorite sushi sauces (from eel sauce to Bang Bang and more), where to shop/what to buy, and how to safely serve raw fish at home with confidence according to health department standards. You'll get two rolls to eat, and a take-home cheat sheet filled with tips, tricks and recipes!
Tickets and more details.

More to do Wednesday

Thursday, December 12

Beef Holiday Roast
at Chop Shop Butchery

Build confidence in your sourcing, preparing, cooking and serving BEFORE the big show at the holiday table with your friends and family! Professionally trained chefs will share with you proper preparation, cooking techniques, and the easiest way to serve your guests.
Tickets and more details.

More to do Thursday

Friday, December 13

Jackie & The Racket
at Foggy Mountain Brewpub

With a brassy rock n' roll vibe and an upbeat rootsy sound, Jackie & The Racket is played on radio worldwide and was featured in June 2019's issue of Country Music People Magazine. Be sure to stop by the Brewpub and check them out!
More details.
More to do Friday

Saturday, December 14

A Winter's Tail
at WNC Nature Center
Head to the Nature Center for their annual holiday celebration! Activities include photos with Santa, garland crafts, candle dipping, holiday mask making, sidewalk chalk art, special animal enrichment programs and more!
More details.
More to do Saturday

Sunday, December 15

Flower Hour Yoga
at Carolina Hemp Company
Head to 290 Haywood Road on Sunday mornings from 11am-Noon for an active flow for all ages and yoga levels. This is a donation-based class and attendees will receive 15% off products after the event!
More details.
More to do Sunday
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